FROM THE GROUND UP
Watergate Hotel Shuts Down to Spruce Up
Monday, August 6, 2007
At the Watergate complex, the hotel's reception desk was suddenly empty last week. So was the lobby. Ditto for the 250 rooms.
"We apologize for the inconvenience," said a typed note on hotel stationery that was taped to the front entrance. "But as of Aug. 1, 2007, the Watergate Hotel is closed for renovations."
After 40 years, the hotel was looking a little tired. So its owner said it was time to shut down for 18 months and launch a $170 million, top-to-bottom renovation of the landmark 13-story building on Virginia Avenue NW on the banks of the Potomac.
Michael J. Darby, principal of District-based Monument Realty, which bought the hotel in 2004, said he plans to create a luxury hotel "probably higher-end than any other hotel in Washington."
"We intend to enhance the original luster and excitement that made the Watergate synonymous with style," he said.
Plans include reducing the number of rooms, expanding the average room from about 350 to 400 square feet to about 650, and bringing in a new partner and operating company.
One thing will remain the same: the name.
"It's too good a name to change," Darby said.
The 1972 Watergate burglary, which led to the fall of President Richard M. Nixon, occurred at Democratic National Committee headquarters in an office building connected to the hotel.
The hotel is one of six buildings in the Watergate complex that includes residences.
For Monument, the hotel renovation was Plan B.
The company bought the hotel with the intention of converting it to upscale cooperative apartments. Some residents in the Watergate complex argued that a hotel was better for the health of the Watergate complex and challenged the conversion in court.